Not long before the end of Wednesday’s practice, Los Angeles Lakers Coach Luke Walton wanted a piece of them.
One by one, the Lakers’ big men got their chance, but none of them could score on their 36-year-old head coach.
“Old man wanted some work,” said former University of Kentucky star Julius Randle, who is 21 and voted for the first time Tuesday.
Randle missed. Timofey Mozgov missed. Tarik Black missed. Thomas Robinson was called for a charge.
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“He definitely flopped,” Robinson said. “I’m gonna send him his fine.”
Countered Walton: “He went through my chest. I probably can’t walk tomorrow.”
That group of players will figure prominently during the Lakers’ next trip, in which they’ll face the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves. In Sacramento they’ll face center DeMarcus Cousins. In New Orleans it’ll be big man Anthony Davis and in Minnesota they’ll face center Karl-Anthony Towns.
They are the top three in scoring among NBA centers. Although his team has been struggling, Davis ranked fourth overall in the NBA with 30.9 points a game and first among centers through Tuesday’s games. Cousins was scoring 25.8 points a game and Towns was averaging 22.2 points. Davis also led all centers with three blocked shots a game.
“When you’re playing guys that good, it’s not just on our bigs,” Walton said. “Obviously, the first part of team defense starts with how we guard straight up. With guys like that it’s a team concept. But I think they’ll be great tests for us. Those are three of the best, if not the three best bigs in our game.”
Some of the task will fall on centers Mozgov and Black. Some will fall on Randle — a Kentucky product just like Towns, Cousins and Davis — who has had a strong start to the season.
“Just take the challenge,” Randle said. “Take the challenge. I mean you have to take the one-on-one challenge and it’s a whole team effort. You just have to take the challenge and that’s all I can really say.”
Randle has averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and has helped the Lakers as he learns how to be aggressive in the right way.
On Wednesday afternoon, though Randle couldn’t score on Walton at first, he did get a second shot. That time, Randle scored on his coach and walked away chuckling. Walton argued that his conditioning failed him, and he was too tired to put forth a strong effort by that point.
His players, saw it differently.
“I should’ve scored,” Black said. “Mine was an easy bucket. Ju’s first shot was an easy bucket. [Walton] got lucky. But if he does it again, we’re gonna run house on him.”